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by Ed Sutcliff and Andy Feldman on November 14th, 2012
After taking an unscheduled week off to recover from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, members of the Red Sox Racing League returned to action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course in the “Gasoline Alley 30″. The course features 13 corners along a flat 2.6 mile layout which utilizes just enough of the speedway section to allow drivers to reach full speed before returning to the infield section.
Twenty league members participated in the event, some just days after getting power back at their homes. Most drivers took advantage of the extra off week to adjust their driving styles to fit the tricky layout at Indy.
Brad Vincent earned his 8th pole of the season with a qualifying lap time of 1:16.765. No one else in the HPD field was even close to that speed. Les Turner started in 2nd place after posting a lap time of 1:17.556. John Koscielniak (1:17.662) and Troy Harder (1:17.715) started in row two. Ed Sutcliff (1:18.101), Divina Galica (1:18.880) started in row three. Andrew Feldman, Terry Schmidt, David Weiss, William Kabela, David Berry, and Kevin Kyle completed the Class A grid.
Paul Hesla earned his 5th pole of the season in the Class B Corvette field with a lap time of 1:21.33. Tommy Rhyne started on the outside of row one with a lap time of 1:21.778. Dennis Griffen (1:22.778) and Jeff Thomas (1:23.000) started in row two. Dean Moll (1:23.109) and Ricky Hardin (1:23.702) started in row three. Scott Husted and Jason Brown completed the Class B grid.
League officials tweaked the fixed setups for the HPD cars for Indy, leaving drivers with less down force than at other tracks and some drivers found it difficult to control their cars in the infield section of the track. The result was that for the first time in recent memory, more Class B drivers finished the race without incident than did their Class A counterparts.
The first few laps were exciting as a number of HPD drivers had off track incidents. RSR newcomer Terry Schmidt made a good start and got past Feldman prior to turn 1, but was the first HPD driver to fall victim to the HPD’s lower than usual down force before completing the lap when he slid wide exiting T11 and drove into the grass. The mistake cost him two positions as both Feldman and Weiss passed him before he returned to the track.
Weiss had almost the exact problem in T11 on the next lap. His resulting slide into the grass costing him several positions.
Galica’s return to action after missing the league’s last race at Sebring was marred when she lost control exiting T4 on lap two. The mistake dropped her from 6th place to last place behind nearly the entire corvette field.
Moll, normally a very fast driver who is near the front of the Class B field, seemed distracted at Indy. He got through the opening lap in one piece, but things went downhill for him on lap two. He barely escaped a cutting course penalty in T1 and then lost third place to Griffen before pitting to serve the 15 second penalty that the marshals issued him for his T1 infraction. Coming back out in front of the lead HPD cars, Moll was forced to tip-toe his way through the infield as he let them pass. In his attempt to let the HPDs through while losing as little time as possible he tangled with the third place HPD car driven by Turner at the apex of T6. Moll and Turner were both forced off course by the contact. Moll retired rather than continue what had suddenly become a nightmarish race.
Turner attempted to get back up to speed, but the tires on his car were overheated and he ended up spinning out between T6 and T7. Kabela was directly behind as Turner’s car spun off of the track. Despite his surprise, Kabela deftly avoided hitting the Team Draft Batmobile. Those two incidents dropped Turner from 3rd to last place in the HPD field. Hoping to salvage the race after his shaky start, Turner’s crew quickly changed strategy and called him into the pits for new tires and fuel rather than risk another incident.
After his scare with Turner on lap four Kabela put Berry in a similar scary situation a few laps later when he lost focus exiting T2 several laps later and spun off the track in front of the Indiana driver. Kabela lost three positions before he got back onto the track.
After setting his fastest lap of the race on lap 17, Schmidt lost control of his HPD exiting T7 on lap 18 but he escaped damage and was able to continue racing. The final incident of the race saw Hardin spinning out at the exit of T10 on lap twenty while trying to hold off Griffen for 3rd place. The spin cost Hardin two positions.
Class A results
RSR newcomer Troy Harder earned his first RSR win after only two starts, and did it by overtaking two of the toughest HPD drivers on the circuit. His race to victory lane began with a daring pass for 2nd place as he and Turner entered T1 on lap two. Illustrating why the RSR league is so well respected, Turner left Harder room to make the pass rather than forcing the issue and risking contact. Harder solidified his chances for the win by making an early pit stop on lap ten to ensure a clean exit off pit road. The strategy worked perfectly as Harder gained over twelve seconds on Vincent, and eight seconds on Koscielniak during their respective pit cycles. “We gambled with the pit stop, but it was the right call” said Harder after the race. “The Peak Performance HPD was a rocket tonight. Thanks to Brad for racing me clean in the closing laps.”
Vincent led the opening sixteen laps and posted the fastest lap of the race (1:17.235) on lap twenty, but he couldn’t overcome the slow pit stop in time to make a clean pass on Harder as the race wound down. Vincent crossed the line a mere .178 behind Harder.
Koscielniak was fifteen seconds back when he crossed the line for 3rd place. It was his seventh podium finish in eight starts. Sutcliff crossed the line in 4th place to earn his highest finishing position of the season. Turner battled his way through the field to earn fifth place.
Berry (6th), Feldman (7th), and Kabela (8th) all finished on the lead lap. Galica (9th) and Schmidt (10th) were both scored one lap down. Weiss (11th) and Kyle (12th) rounded out the HPD scoring. Harder and Kyle (who retired early) were the only drivers to complete the event without incident.
Turner kept his lead in the overall points race, while Vincent, Sutcliff, Feldman and Terry Daul, who was missing from the action in Indy, round out the top five spots.
Class B results
Hesla posted the fastest lap of the race (1:21.991) and led the way for the Corvette field until mid race. A disastrous pit stop gave the top spot to Rhyne and meant Hesla had to fight his way back into contention in the closing laps. Taking a page from Harder, Hesla made a hard charge down the front stretch and made a spectacular pass in turn one of the last lap to overtake Rhyne. Rhyne did not give up easily however and the two remained nose to tail throughout the lap. Hesla beat Rhyne to the finish line by a car length. The victory was Hesla’s fifth in only seven RSR starts.
Rhyne’s second place finish was his sixth podium finish in his last eight starts. Griffen battled hard throughout the race and crossed the line in third place for the fourth week in a row. It was his seventh podium finish in his last nine starts.
Thomas has shown the same sort of consistency this season. His fourth place finish was his sixth top-5 finish of the season. Hardin settled for fifth place. He was the last Corvette still on the lead lap with Hesla. Husted (6th), Moll (7th), and Brown (8th) all retired early from the race.
Hesla, Rhyne, and Thomas each earned bonus points for completing the race without incident.
Consistency is the name of the game in the Corvette championship battle. Griffen has a twenty-six point lead over Thomas in the overall championship race after nine events. Rhyne , Hardin, and Hesla round out the top-5 positions, but look to leap-frog into contention once their drop weeks kick in.
RSR members race at the “Satoyma 30 Twin Ring Motegi Presented by LessTuna.com” at the Twin Ring Motegi Grand Prix Course on 11/15/12.
Results / Standings / Video coverage
League Standings: http://rsr.ileaguerace.com/champ/show_champ/Red-Sox-Racing-League/355
League Video Site: http://www.youtube.com/user/draftin11